A Russian court sentenced jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny to a 19-year prison term Friday, convicting the one-time blogger and anti-corruption crusader on charges of supporting “extremism.”
The latest criminal conviction against Navalny — his fifth in total — came from a courtroom in a penal colony about 150 miles east of Moscow, where he is already serving a nine-year prison sentence. Navalny and his supporters have repeatedly criticized his criminal convictions as politically motivated and described them as attempts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to silence his archenemy.
Navalny, 47, has been held behind bars since January 2021.
Navalny was poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in the Siberian city of Tomsk in August 2020, and later evacuated to Berlin for medical care. After spending more than one week in a coma and recovering from the assassination attempt, Navalny returned to Moscow on Jan. 17, 2021, and was arrested at passport control for violating the terms of his parole.
Navalny’s prison sentence on Friday was one year less than the 20 years requested by prosecutors, but it was still by far the lengthiest term handed to Navalny.
In a statement on social media on Friday, Navalny wrote that the length of his sentence “does not matter.”
“I perfectly understand that, like many political prisoners, I am sitting on a life sentence,” he wrote. “Where life is measured by the term of my life or the term of life of this regime.”
The conviction was related to the work of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a group founded by Navalny in 2011 to expose alleged corruption by high-ranking Russian officials.
The Anti-Corruption Foundation has produced several investigations that revealed wrongdoing and corruption by senior Russian government officials and figures. Targets of the group’s investigations included Putin, former President Dmitry Medvedev, and Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin.
In a statement published Thursday on social media, a day before the sentencing, Navalny called on his fellow Russian citizens to “resist” the Kremlin by supporting political prisoners, donating to the Anti-Corruption Foundation, or attending a political rally.
“There is no shame in choosing the safest way to resist,” wrote Navalny, acknowledging the Kremlin’s crackdown on political dissent.
“There is shame in doing nothing,” Navalny added. “It’s shameful to let yourself be intimidated.”